Marco Breuer, Approx. (C-932), 2009 (2010.104.1)
Marco Breuer‘s Approx. (C-932) is a 20×24-inch piece of chromogenic paper he turned white in the color darkroom and then scratched, leaving hundreds of intersecting lines. It is important to think about his work as experiments, in that each is a unique print that cannot be re-created exactly ever again. In a sense, all of his works are tests of material, physical engagements with photographs, and poetic beauty in working in this destructive process.
Even though this is considered one of Breuer’s “cut” pieces, the marks on the paper resemble careful slashes that could be mistaken for straight lines from farther away. The piece as a whole feels quite violent, but up close the lines are very delicate and considered. Breuer almost always starts a line at the edge and either lets it fall off the opposite side or taper off close to the edge. When he goes with the latter and varies the depth of the cut, an explosion of colors emerges from the dark brown lines that isn’t noticeable from a distance.
Although Breuer sets rules for himself when making work, he never allows the works to feel systematic. I would even describe this piece as organic. The trace of his hand is apparent in small dings from his hand hitting the delicate paper, a small oval formed at the end of a line looks unintentional, and even the remnants of his fingerprints appear where the lines are sparser. I also noticed what I think are small dots made in the intersection of various lines that he must have made after all the cuts. It started to look like an illusion to me, the dots all forming an image of their own inside the cuts.
About Breuer’s work, the artist Julian Kreimer said, “Instead of photographs that mirror the world, the world begins to resemble his photographs.” This piece makes me think of infinite space and a sort of scientific investigation into that anonymous space. This work really comes alive in the middle where most of the intersections and overlapping occurs but the anxiety visible in the center disappears as your eyes wander out. I appreciate that Breuer gives little information about the piece; you construct your own experience upon viewing it.
For a while, I have been thinking about society’s current lack of physical engagement with photography, both in terms of artist/photographic process relationships and viewer/photograph experiences. Although the camera works as a sort of extension of your eyes and body when you are photographing, it also creates a wall between you and what you’re making. The physical process of working with materials in the darkroom and the studio engages me with my photographs in a way that is related to what I think interests Breuer. We often look at images expecting to get something out of them (a story, fact, or specific emotion). The act of looking at a photograph from an unknown source or removed from its original context is very open-ended for viewers, and hopefully leads them to give something back to the image.
—Connor McNicholas, ICP-Bard 2015